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An Abyss To Savor - 90%

brocashelm, April 1st, 2009

For what it's worth...My feelings on the Frost reunion. Firstly, this is one of my favorite bands. Has been ever since I bought my vinyl copy of MORBID TALES with the lyric poster. In all frankness it was a fetish object for me in '84, as were their next few releases. As much as I loved death and thrash metal in general, CF always seemed in a state above the scene. Sodom, Kreator, Onslaught, Destruction, Possessed and many, many more were all great, but CF was something else all together. An enigma, a religion, a universe unto themselves.

And then came the experimentation, the let-downs, the break up and the long whispered rumors of reformation. During this time we read interviews in which Tom Warrior laid himself out as an arrogant prick, pissing on the old school metal fans who supported his art, wanting to believe his work was part of some larger esoteric tradition. We absorbed this and decided that if Warrior didn't want us anymore, we certainly didn't need him. He hadn't put out anything worth getting excited about in some time, so let him disappear up his own ass for all we cared. But suddenly the Frost reunion got more serious, and the rumblings were that it was going to be something special. Warrior (and Ain) seemed to rekindle their passion for metal, even to the point of finally saying vaguely nice things about Hellhammer! You could say they were merely trying anew to curry favor among their expected buying public, and you could be right. Time will tell if their passion remains after it has ceased serving their needs. But this was the band that gave us MORBID TALES, TO MEGA THERION and INTO THE PANDEMONIUM. Whatever their reasons for being back, and whatever their motives, I had to hear their latest work.

Fact: this is a doom-laden, dirge ridden album. It features a lot of slow and similar material. But for me, a huge fan of Moss, Electric Wizard and Skepticsim, this is not a problem. I find it odd that in a day when ultra doom, drone doom and funeral doom ae in vogue, why Frost should get so much heat for experimenting with the style. Expect an old school thrash record (ala THERION or EMPEROR'S RETURN) and you will be let down. But Frost never promised us a thrash album, or anything else specific for that matter. The sound, captured by Peter Tagtgren, is thick and black as mud, and a worthy lesson on how to produce a modern metal metal album. Clarity is in abundance, but so are unspeakably ebony guitars, sub-sonic bass tones and thundering, booming drums.

Thus, this dark, cynical, intellectual and affecting record sprawls itself out over us, through fairly straight forward tracks ("Progeny," "Ground") more ambitious but still extremely heavy work ("A Dying God Coming Into Human Flesh," "Obscured") into "Ain Elohim," one of the more frankly apocalyptic lyrics and potent musics this band have ever created. Then there's the three part Triptych that closes matters, which at 23 minutes total may be seen as some sort of pinnacle to the Frost mountain. But the first part, basically Ain intoning dire words in Gollum-like accent is a waste of time. The 14 minute centerpiece is excellent though, a long, strong epic both atmospheric and brute. By the time the mournful strings that make up "Winter" arrive, it's hard to imagine listeners, Frost fans or not, failing to be at least somewhat moved by this album.

To say I was skeptical about this album would be a vast understatement. When most bands reform, it's not because they have anything to say to us, either lyrically or musically. But Frost do and that's why MONOTHEIST matters. But as with every Frost record, please do not go into this with any expectations. Many of the low ratings I see mention how this record wasn't what the listener had hoped for or was planning on hearing. It's not as diverse as PANDEMONIUM, it's not as "death metal" as THERION, and it's not the kind of commercial thrash of VANITY. Obviously it isn't even on the same planet as A COLD LAKE. If anything it recalls MORBID TALES or even APOCALYPTIC RAIDS, only this time delivered by adults with years of experience behind them and that maturity shows. And I don't believe the press is simply bending over backwards for MONOTHEIST for the sake of it. I'm a bona fide CF fan from their earliest rumblings, and despite their troubled career and our troubled relationship as fans to this legendary band, I feel it deserves all the accolades it gets. If they give us another album as good as this one, perhaps it will quite some of the naysayers down a bit. Nah...it'll probably just piss them off more. Serves 'em right.